“Schism” by Tool

There have been different theories concerning the actual premise of Tool’s “Schism”. Some say it is based on divisions in the church. Others speculate that it is founded in tension Tool were experiencing. This tension was due to frontman Maynard Keenan being simultaneously committed to another band as well as legal issues they were going through. But no matter the real-life genesis of the lyrics, one thing is clear. It is clear that the lyrics are centered on a relationship the singer is in that is suffering from a “schism”. Simply put, there is a major ideological beef between the parties involved. And to be totally honest, the way the band presents the song makes it sound like the relationship they are talking about is actually a romance.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Tool's Schism at Lyrics.org.

But to make a long story short, what Maynard is basically saying in this track is that whereas he is having a difficult time seeing eye-to-eye with the other person(s) involved in the relationship, he believes things can be worked out amicably. He believes that this is possible since the parties have successfully coexisted in the past. It is beyond obvious he is bothered by the current state of the situation. However, he also perceives some “beauty” and even potential constructiveness from the current discontent. Indeed he understands that this particular union is “doomed to crumble”. However, he believes it can be saved. It can be rescued if communication between himself and the addressee is ‘strengthened’.


So conclusively, the singer is in a relationship which is currently defined by a high degree of discontent – so much so that it seems disagreements pose the threat of tearing it completely apart. However, he believes that the situation can be resolved with the relationship still intact. And the way this can be accomplished, via his estimation, is through effective communication between the parties involved.

Lyrics of "Schism"

Release Date of “Schism”

Tool released “Schism” via Volcano Records on May 15th, 2001. It was a part of their classic album Lateralus.

Chart Performance

The song only managed to peak at number 67 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, it did reach number 2 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.

Late Music Video

Tool didn’t publish the music video to “Schism” onto YouTube until mid-2019. They did this to celebrate the release of their album, “Fear Inoculum”.

Writing Credits for “Schism”

“Schism” was written by Tool. The songwriting credits are as follows:

  • Danny Carey
  • Justin Chancellor
  • Adam Jones
  • Maynard James Keenan 

The entire band also had a hand in producing the track. They collaborated with David Bottrill to achieve this.

Did Tool win a Grammy for “Schism”?

Yes. It earned Tool a Grammy Award in 2002 for Best Metal Performance.

Was this a single from Lateralus?

Yes. Lateralus had three singles (including “Schism”). The other two are:

  • “Parabola”
  • “Lateralus”

7 Responses

  1. Saucepan says:

    I agree with this mostly, but I had sort of a different idea as to what it could be about. This is just my opinion and I will probably seem like an idiot but this is how I perceived this song when I first read the lyrics and listened to it.
    To me, it seems like it’s about how we as a group, as a species, have become so absorbed in ourselves and our devices and such that we’ve lost the ability to comminicate with, work with, and understand one another. We’ve become so focused on our idividuality that we’ve started second guessing ourselves and our relationships with others and due to that, lost the abilty to band together. For example “rediscover communication”, which is a line frequently used, sounds to me as if it could be about how we need to become one with each other and communicate and understand each other in order to move on as a species and become more advanced (which could also link back to 46 and 2). The line “dangers of our second guessing” sounds like how we’re second guessing ourselves and our relationships due to how absorbed we’ve become with ourselves, and that can be a dangerous thing, because if there’s one thing you need to work with others and move on it’s trust and stability.
    Again, this is just my take on the song, and I’m most likely completely, utterly long. Thanks to anyone who read my entire thing.

  2. Sunny D says:

    ^Saucepan^ I think you are spot-on with your insights. That the same line of thought I have from the lyrics. I DO think that it is written to parallel the type of love relationship that can develop and bond two people together.

  3. Anonymous says:

    well….it’s maybe their most literal song? yup spot on . check it

  4. toolhead says:

    To me it’s about the relationship between a man and a woman. I feel as if biblically speaking, it was when God took a rib from Adam and made Eve for him. When he says, I know the pieces fit, to me is a reference to just that.

  5. russmcgrew says:

    I always though it was about the fabric of existence itself, and Maynard is singing about a trip where he watched everything come apart and then come came back together.

  6. Alex says:

    After many years in a relationship, I can feel this song as a call to make sure to not let the pieces fall away. I have truly related to this throughout these later years as I approach 60. Don’t try to read existence into this wondrous simplicity. He knows the way to put the pieces of this failing relationship back, he even questions the satisfaction of not doing it. This is Love Broken, and he is questioning trying.

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